Call for papers: Summer school in August 2020


International Network in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (INREES) welcomes doctoral students to the four-day summer school, which is held at the Lammi Biological Station on August 20-23, 2020.

The first INREES summer school will concentrate on developing skills in building of argumentation in written texts and oral discussions, necessary for young scholars and professionals. In particular, we will be focusing on four major issues:

  • Linkages between theories, methodologies, and empirical analysis
  • Critical assessments of existing scholarship
  • Making evidence-based claims
  • Discussing and fortifying your arguments

The summer school consists of lectures and workshops. The participants will prepare a workshop paper on their research (max 8000 words) which can be a research proposal, a draft for the article or a summary of the current status of their PhD. This paper will be discussed in the workshops supervised by the lecturers of the summer school.

In addition to the lectures and workshops, the doctoral students will give their comments to MA students’ papers in a special workshop organized with the students of International MA in Russian Studies program (MARS).

The course literature will be sent in advance. The workload for the course is 5 ECTS.

INREES provides accommodation in single rooms and meals at the Lammi Biological Station and travel to the course site from Helsinki. Please note that due the COVID-19 pandemic the dates and the program of the course might change. Places on the course are limited.

Applications for the summer school should include a motivation letter with a short description of your PhD project and abstract of your paper presented in the workshop (max 2000 characters each).

The deadline for the applications is June 1. Apply via e-form:

Notification of acceptance will be sent by June 8.

This nationwide course is organised by the Aleksanteri Institute (University of Helsinki) which coordinates the INREES-network funded by the KONE foundation. For more information on the course, please contact coordinator of the course Dr. Ira Jänis-Isokangas


Reflections on the benefits of international networks during a time of social distancing

INREES continues the KONE-funded YRUSH programme by offering Russian postgraduate students the possibility to conduct a short, 1-2 month visiting fellowship at Aleksanteri Institute. An alumnus of the YRUSH programme, Artūrs Hoļavins, wrote a wonderful piece on his experiences from his three-month fellowship. For Artūrs, the fellowship was particularly productive. Read his thoughts and the reasons why he recommends a visiting fellowship to the Aleksanteri Institute below. More information on applications for INREES visiting fellowships will be provided in autumn 2020 on this website.

YRUSH & Self-distancing

When I was asked to write about my YRUSH programme experience in the context of the current covid19 pandemic, I felt stumped at first. The self-isolation is nothing new for me. I am precisely that one introvert from memes, who did not feel any difference between “before” and “after” isolation. Not mentioning the fact that Sweden, taking, probably, the most relaxed approach to the pandemic in Europe, has not imposed any meaningful restrictions against me going to park or a supermarket nearby.

Anyway, here it is a month in the apartment, sitting in front of the computer. No children, dear wife, with whom I had a distance marriage before and, thus, enjoy every minute rather than feeling spaced. It is like most of my life, but also with someone real to share with thoughts. After all, my PhD studies had been like one extended quarantine. I even remember being called by my supervisor in St. Petersburg “biryuk” (a Russian word I would loosely translate as “grumpy cat”). An organisational structure of my PhD programme in Russia (and, later, in Finland) – with no working space or any other institutional, physical affiliation except for scholarship transfers to the bank account – contributed to this isolation. To put it simply, of five years of my PhD, I had my working computer and an office chair just twice: three months in the University of Glasgow and… three months in Aleksanteri Institute.

Here my introduction finally comes to the point. In short, the YRUSH fellowship – an opportunity to have a safe, well-paid space together with actual office space – was an outstandingly exceptional part of my doctoral student life. Altogether, I had three visiting research grants. In North Carolina, I had to push myself every morning to go to the university library. The internal voice had been bringing the point every morning: why to go to the library if you can work from home? It is summer, there are no coursemates, other researchers or even a kitchen to have lunch in. I would often give up to the voice, writing a dissertation while sitting in the internal yard and watching chipmunks jumping around.

In Glasgow, it was all different. I had a working space shared with an intelligent and friendly Scottish professor. I recently finished with my fieldwork and had been starting to write the actual text (I bet, not a single word from that text has ended up in the final version…). Thus, having a professor around was definitely more engaging than chipmunks or roes (a side note: both North Carolina & Glasgow had amazing supervisors, so the chipmunk narrative is more of an exaggeration for literary purposes; all visits boosted my progress in doctoral research). Yet, again, there was no community to join, no teambuilding events, no regular research seminars or late night bar-based scholarly debates.

All that was not the USA and the UK, it was Finland. I was already the second year of my University of Helsinki PhD programme (a continuation of my Russian research endeavours) when I actually got an opportunity to visit the new Alma Mater. The YRUSH Fellowship. Needless to say, I am grateful to everyone who favourably counted me as “Young” (30 years old) “Russian” (a Latvian citizen based in Riga at that particular point) “Scholar” (Hirsch index still being a shameful zero then). And, yes, it all has changed thanks to the Aleksanteri Institute.

To begin with, I got my first citations during the stay (yes, we all know that correlation does not imply causation). Second, I finally had a chance to work 9 to 5 as a researcher, not as an

assistant or administrative personnel. Third, there was a community of diverse, smart, inspiring scholars around. Not just sitting in different rooms, but actually coming to visit you, ask a question, invite for a tea or a weekly planking exercise. Can’t help to say that it was a great honour to have a chat with those, whom you usually cite, and great fun to hear success stories of an older generation of scholars. They had the same doubts and managed to survive rather than “perish”. It sky-rocketed my confidence. Since the stay in Aleksanteri, I got my thesis finalised, two articles published and two others accepted, as well as two more sent for a peer review. Three of those articles had been written during the stay. Who would imagine three-month stay could be so productive?

It was not just an office chair, which was a game-changer, of course. It was all together: a friendly and engaging community, supportive administrative staff, disciplining existence of the working space, a kitchen to bring your own lunch box, countless conferences and seminars, team building events including a boat trip around the Helsinki archipelago, sauna in the academic hotel (you are not supposed to praise Finnish fellowship without mentioning sauna, aren’t you?), tasty free breakfasts. But, most importantly, it was a persistent feeling of being visible, needed, approved. In other words, Aleksanteri Institute and the YRUSH fellowship nourished a heart-warming sense of being a part of the academia (and the feeling that academia is not a concept, but the real people), which.

I am still in a limbo awaiting the decision by the reviewers and being a househusband after moving to Sweden to reunite with my wife. Pandemics undeniably makes our lives uncertain and worrisome too. It is also already half a year since I have left the beautiful shore of Finland towards my native Baltics. Yet, the positive energy, academic successes and the feeling of being part of the good science are what still drives me forward.

Artūrs Hoļavins (Артур Холявин),

the elderly care, third sector, social work and gender studies researcher.

Anastasia Novkunskaya defends her doctoral thesis

A member of the Aleksanteri Institute’s YRUSH programme, Anastasia Novkunskaya, successfully defended her thesis on 14 March, 2020.

The thesis is entitled “Professional Agency and Institutional Change: Case of Maternity Services in Small-Town Russia”. The defense took place under extraordinary circumstances.

Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the travel restrictions it has imposed, the opponent, Professor Ellen Annandale from the University of York, was not able to travel to Helsinki. Luckily, Professor Annandale was able to attend the defense through a video connection.

These circumstances did not affect Anastasia’s performance. She confidently and skillfully presented her thesis and arguments. As a result, her thesis was accepted.

Warmest congratulations to Anastasia!



Update on the INREES spring intensive course

The INREES spring intensive course received many applications by the deadline, and the successful candidates have been elected.

However, with the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic constantly evolving, it is unclear whether the intensive course can take place as planned.

We hope to be able to arrange course if not in April, but in the near future. However, we prioritise the health of the participants, and will not take any unnecessary risks.

The participants will be kept updated on the development of the situation.

Yana Agafonova awarded the Mervyn Heard Award of the The Magic Lantern Society

Congratulations to Yana Agafonova, member of the YRUSH programme, for being awarded the Mervyn Heard Award of the The Magic Lantern Society!

Agafonova’s award winning article discusses the use of magic lanterns in public readings in late Imperial Russia, as an early form of mass media. It suggests that Russia was a progressive actor in the development of mass media, and part of international networks.

Read more about the Magic Lantern Society:

Image may contain: 1 person, glasses and close-up

Call for papers: Spring intensive course


The International Network in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies (INREES) welcomes PhD students from the University of Helsinki (UH), the Higher School of Economics (HSE) and the European University at St Petersburg to the five-day intensive course in St Petersburg on April 20-24, 2020. The intensive course is aimed at post-graduate students working in the field of social sciences and humanities.

Course description

Research design is an integral part of every study, as it explains what the aim of your study is and how you are going to do it. A research design should be the starting point of every study, but it also gives the reader (or examiner) a clear view of what your study is all about. It clarifies your thought as an author when you are in the middle of the writing process. It is important to consider how you aim to conduct your study when starting a project, as it might change during the process. Whatever the phase of your study is, it is always good to think of the research design. For the PhD students, research design is part of the Introduction of your dissertation (monographs) or introductory chapter (article based dissertation).

The other aspect of the course is a pedagogical one. The PhD students will have a chance to comment MA students’ research plans, and this way develop their pedagogical skills with the instructors of the course.

The intensive course consists of lectures, workshops and thematic panels. The participants of the course prepare a workshop paper where they present the research design of their dissertation. The aim of the paper is to enable discussion and provide comments to the major points of your dissertation. The papers should include the following issues:

  • What is your research problem and the main research question(s) in your study, as well as how you aim to address these
  • What is your research method and major theoretical framework
  • What are your source materials (can also be described as major material groups)
  • What are the limitations of your study – by applying this kind of research design, what do you have to leave out?

The workload for the course is 5 ECTS. Lecturers and supervisors of the course are experienced researchers and professors from the organizing universities. They have a solid experience in multidisciplinary and international research training. Moreover, they have applied and run many successful research or educational projects and represent different disciplines in the field of humanities and social sciences.

We accept proposals from doctoral students from all disciplines of social sciences and humanities. The doctoral research should address Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Please send your applications with a short (200 words) description of your PhD project by February 27, 2020 to

The participants coming outside St. Petersburg are provided travel and accommodation in St. Petersburg. Please note that places on the course are limited. Notification of acceptance will be sent by March 3, 2020.

For more information on the course, please contact Sari Autio-Sarasmo ( and Vladimir Gel’man (